first of all, I want to thank all the people who have been asking where I've been. To cut a long story short, I'm having not the best of times right now and just couldn't bring myself to writing reviews.
I'll try to get my act together in the weeks to come, but it might still take some time untill I can get back to my usual frequency.
Without further ado:
The Secrets of Martial Mastery
This pdf is 18 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD and two pages of advertisements.
That leaves us with 13 pages of content, let’s get it on.
The Secrets of Martial Mastery contains a plethora of new combat maneuvers akin to classics like feint and bull rush. (7 pages) The new maneuvers are:
Arm Lock – Deals unarmed damage and causes sickened effect. Initiated in a grapple.
Blind Opponent – You attempt to blind your opponent for 1 or more rounds. (By throwing sand in their face, poking their eyes etc.)
Bypass Armor – You exploit a weak spot in their armor, if you succeed they lose their armor vs your next attack. Surprisingly, this also works against natural armor
Confuse Opponent – You attempt to hit the opponent in a way that is dazes/confuses them. Deals half damage and causes brief confusion.
Corps-à-Corps – You lock weapons with the opponent and move close to them, setting them up for other combat maneuvers.
Create Opening – Lowers the opponent’s AC for your next attack.
Cut Clothing – Do the Zorro! Cut clothing off your opponent, carve your name, attack items etc. – Mages will hate this one.
Disorient Opponent – If this attack works, the enemy takes a -2 to attack, INT and several skill checks based on movement for a short amount of time.
Entangle Opponent – You use an object to entangle your opponent by ropes, cutting branches, throwing furniture etc.
Enemy Cover – You move into the blind spot of e.g. other enemies by moving with the opponent targeted, using your foe as cover against themselves and their allies.
Force Movement – Force an opponent to move 5-10ft in the direction of your choosing without having to run him over.
Garrote Opponent – You strangle the enemy from behind, assassin-style. The attack is sufficiently lethal, causes damage and eventually forces the target to save or fall unconscious and die.
Hinder Natural Attack – You strike at a natural weapon, making your foe unable to use that specific attack for 1 or more rounds.
Hinder Special Ability – Works just like Hinder Natural Attack, but thankfully only works when there is an obvious attack like a breath weapon, webs and the like.
Impede Movement – The little brother of the good ol’ classic “Sever Sinews” - your attack lowers the movement of the enemy by 5ft on a success.
Joint Strike – In contrast to the others, this one is rather bland, it does 1 point of ability damage to STR or DEX.
Low Blow – Strike at the vital areas of male/female anatomy to really make your enemy appreciate you. If you’re successful, the target is dazed for 1 or more rounds. Obviously doesn’t work against all critters out there.
Nauseate Opponent – Karate-chop to the ear or similar attacks cause the victim to be nauseated for 1 or more rounds.
Paralyze Opponent – If you are successful, you can paralyze your opponent briefly.
Parry Attack – This blocks the next incoming melee attack by your chosen target by using one of your AoOs.
Rope-a-Dope –Tire out your opponent for a brief amount of time by applying pressure while keeping your defensive stance.
Sacrificial Critical – Open yourself wide for an automatic crit by your enemy to get an attack that automatically threatens a critical hit if successful.
Sap – A successful hit with this maneuver causes your enemy to save or be knocked unconscious for a brief amount of time, potentially long enough to capture him/her/it.
Scar Opponent – The stuff revenge-stories are made of, this humiliation deals 1 point of damage and a scar that can only be healed by magic. [GREAT for low-magic campaigns or if the DM rules that the scar remains even if the damage is healed…]
Seize Massive Attack – As part of a readied action, you attempt to latch onto a large or larger creature. Ever wanted to latch onto a charging Gorgon or a swooping dragon with one hand while desperately trying to hack it to pieces? There you go.
Taunt Opponent – The “Yo mama!” of combat maneuvers, this causes the targets to attack you for one or more rounds in a fit of rage, potentially ignoring your meek fireball-casting sorcerer-buddy.
Throw Opponent – Initiated as a part of a grapple, you throw an opponent 5ft or more, doing 1d6+STR damage and fling them potentially off of cliffs, balconies, etc.
Torment Opponent – Inflict a traumatizing blow on your enemy, causing massive pain and leaving them with -4 to attack rolls and some skill checks.
Unbalance Opponent – You try to knock your foe off balance, leaving him without DEX-mod for 1 or more rounds or hamper his REF-save.
While some of the maneuvers might seem strong, they are balanced by saves, half damage and a limited amount of time for their effects. All maneuvers have additional effects if you beat the opponent by 10+ or fail by an equal margin.
New Feats (3.5 pages): After the maneuvers, we get a whole bunch of new feats, one general “Improved [Combat maneuver]”-feat-template and several non-generic “Greater”-variants of the maneuvers. Taunt Opponent, Hinder Special Ability, Corps-à-Corps and Arm Lock don’t get their own “Greater”-version though.
Finally, we get a new prestige class, the Master of the Arts, that gets two and a half pages:
The class has d10, 4+INT skills, good BAB, medium FORT save, bad REF and WIL saves and details a teacher of combat maneuvers who can both utilize maneuvers, deflect arrows and the like and even control his/her inflicted damage for training/capture/ whatever purposes. The class also features a short glossary of Questhaven.
The b/w-art ranges from fair to “meh” and is partly public domain, I found one editing glitch (double sentence) and 2 typos in the book, but not enough to severely detract from its appeal. Why? Because it is so concisely written and because, even though it is setting-neutral, made me envision or remember all the times when I have already house-ruled situations like the ones the maneuvers address. Combat should be exciting, dynamic and cool and fighter-types should have more options than “I attack with power attack +3” and “I trip. Again.” If you’re like me and love swashbuckling, Errol Flynn style, if you are into martial artist flicks from the east, hell, if you just simply want more options for your fighters that are not necessarily just more feats, more options for any character that is even remotely martially bent, this pdf is for you. For the cheap price of 3 bucks, you get a file that is guaranteed to enrich your gaming experience in a more than positive way. Due to the cheap price that almost makes up for the minor editing glitches, I’ll rate this file 4.5 Rudii.
In the fine tradition of Rite Publishing, the book starts with an aptly written in-character introduction to the ideas presented herein. The introduction and first chapter take up 5 pages and feature a new trait for minor channeling. The idea of channeling is presented in two ways: On the one hand, clerics can choose the trait to gain access to minor channeling abilities or they could take two feats to get up to 6 new things they can do in combat via channeling their divine energy, which is domain-specific.
However, if that is not enough for you and you want to go all out, you can also play the divine channeler, a new base class. He has d8, 4+Int skills, medium BAB, good fort and will saves as well as some massive channeling abilities – to trade this off, his spell-selection is more limited than the cleric’s and he can’t cast as many spells per day.
The next chapter, feats, takes up 2 pages and features the aforementioned feats for the cleric. I liked the 8 feats, none seemed over-powered or under-whelming.
The bulk of the book (24 pages), though, is taken up by the domains and their respective channeling abilities. Each Doamin features a sensorial image, i.e. how the channeling of the divine energy manifests itself, which I found quite cool, a minor channeling effect, a combat domain channeling effect and two major channeling effects.
I’m going to give you an example on what to expect and, due to being so cheerful, I choose the Madness domain!
Sensorial Image: Purple and scarlet energies, swirling air currents, and a faint stale, musty odor.
Minor Channeling Effect: Imbecile’s Tongue makes it impossible for the victim to communicate.
Combat Channeling Effect: Breath of Madness boosts the combat capabilities of the targets for WIS-damage and could be used offensively and defensively.
Major Channeling Effect I: Wave of Confusion – mass confusion.
Major Channeling Effect II: Madman’s Screech damages opponents and causes WIS-damage to boot.
Editing and formatting is top-notch, as I’ve come to expect from Rite Publishing. The interior art is ok, although nothing to write home about.
When I first read this book, I have to admit that I didn’t get the hype around it. Yes, it is a fair book, but I just didn’t immediately jump up from my chair, wanting to implement this, possibly because the book is necessarily campaign-setting neutral. I let the idea gestate for about a week. And gradually, subtly, I started to realize what the content in this book does – It makes it possible to customize THE HELL out of any cleric and offers a variant (un)holy-man-class that is closer to the aspects of his deity than the cleric in some regards, without unbalancing the game. The abilities are cool and should help just about any divine caster to greatly diversify the options he has while providing an entertaining alternative to the cleric.
Best of all, channeling makes individual divine casters of different gods much more unique and diversified and should be considered a boon to DMs and players alike, especially those who don’t want to build another “evil cleric” that swats around the same spells as all the other evil clerics. The sensorial images, while being short paragraphs, add A LOT of flavor to the different domains. Sooo…what would I have liked to see that wasn’t there? Well, even more domains. And campaign-setting specific domains with more fluff. And PrCs for the divine channeler. That’s a good sign and I sincerely hope that Rite Publishing expands on this great concept in e.g. their Questhaven project and put out a “Secrets of Divine Channeling II” one of these days. It’s a subtle, humble book, but it will enrich your gaming, I guarantee it.
My final verdict is 5 Rudii.
This full-color pdf is 16 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 2 pages ads, 1 page SRD, leaving 11 pages for the 30 magical blades. Enough to make them “unique” as per the premise of the book? We’ll see.
The pdf starts with a short table that lists the weapons according to their value, the cheapest being 4,312 GP, the most powerful one scoring at a whopping 175,325 GP. The book features a beautiful, full-color, digital artwork by Sade for each and every weapon in the book, which I definitely liked. The layout is also consistent and very nice to look at. Each of the thirty blades comes not only with a short story that could serve as a hook on how to get the weapon, but also with several abilities that go beyond +2 ice-bursting sword. I.e., each of the blades (There are also spears, btw.) has some distinctive quality besides its primary characteristics.
Editing and formatting very top-notch, I didn’t notice any mistakes.
Magic item books tend to have a hard standing with me. I’m a sucker for elaborate backgrounds, weapons that level up and PCs with a very limited access to magic weapons and gadgets. I’m quite old-school there, every weapon or magic item in my campaign gets its own background story.
There is obviously not too much space for background-texts for the blades in this pdf, although you get more than in almost all item-supplements I’ve read so far, which is great news – while I love the modularity of recent editions when it comes to magic items, it also made many a weapon or armor a common commodity instead of an awe-inspiring item.
The production values are top-notch, as often a picture of a blade makes it MUCH MORE memorable than it would be without it. That being said, all the blades feature the Rite Publishing style, i.e. they have something rather unusual or special about them – for the low price, that is quite is something!However, if you’re like me, you would probably have preferred less blades and more background on the weapons presented. I can’t find any serious flaw with this product, though. Thus, for me, this is a 4 Rudii product, probably because it didn’t utterly grip me and make me shout “Hell yeah”. If you’re into equipment books, though, this is gold. For you, this may be a 4.5 or even 5 Rudii-file.
That's it from me for now, to all you fine folks out there a merry christmas in case I don't get around to posting again, I hope you'll find fine gifts under your trees!
All the best,